One of the children’s favorite materials in our custom-built sensory box is shredded paper. For us, it is a perfect material: it has a unique texture and lightness, and it allows us to re-use paper. We are always looking for ways to repurpose anything we don’t need, and shredding unused flyers and brochures to use in our box gives them a new life.
We also customize the paper colors for certain occasions. For example, in the fall, around Halloween, we use orange paper. We coordinate with other events going on in our studios, especially when we are focusing on certain colors in our curriculum.
With the shredded paper, all the kids need is their bodies. They love to put it on their heads, bury each other in it, hide their feet, pretend to be birds – all kinds of exploratory and imaginative play. Often the children get swept up in the joy of throwing the shredded paper up in the air, and onto the other children. Some kids may not enjoy this, and we help them express that to the thrower.
We emphasize the sensory aspects of every material we use in the sensory box, and encourage the children to really explore the paper. What does it sound like when you rub handfuls of it together? Does it sounds like rain? How about when I drop some one your hand? Is it wet like rain? What happens if we pull on it? Does is break or rip into pieces? We lead them to use their senses to experience all aspects of the paper.
Our sensory box is 4 feet square, with a nice wide edge for sitting. It also has a fitted lid that we use to close the box when playtime with the sensory box is over. This helps children who have a difficult time transitioning move on to something else since the sensory box is not accessible.
Before we had this custom built box made, we used a plastic sand pit with a lid, which could easily be used at home.
To prepare the shredded paper, we use an office paper shredder. We make enough to fill the box, along with some extra. Some paper inevitably gets tossed out of the box and dirty and we need to replenish throughout the week. The shredded paper is kept in a large clean garbage bag and hung on a wall in our storeroom until we need it.
Clean-up after playing with shredded paper is very easy if you have smooth floors, as we do. We simply sweep it up and recycle any paper that is too dirty to use. To use it in a location with carpeting, we suggest putting down a tarp or blanket you can shake out so you will not have to vacuum or pick it out of the carpet.